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Representations of Democracy in Hollywood cinema: Seven Days in May

by Dr. Johannes Pause

In Seven Days in May (1964), the US president is pursuing the objective of signing a disarmament treaty with the USSR, against which charismatic General Scott stages a conspiracy in order to himself seize power, causing the cold war to escalate. Whenever Scott is shown, he is being cheered by the masses, for which television itself provides the visual commands by giving prominence to precisely those cheering masses. The mythical founding act of democracy, the spontaneous constitution of people and transient representative in a theatrical situation, is thus recast as a situation characterised by media alienation: banished to the screen, the primal scene of democracy degenerates into a manipulative instruction on how to act. Even the upstanding president himself, speaking at a major press conference towards the end of the picture, is forced to defend the many voices of democracy using the same means as those employed by the dissident general. He assumes the mantle of a charismatic leader, but his words are nonetheless carried out into the world by that very same medium which came close to appointing a fascist to high office.

Seven Days in May: Closing Speech

The president defends democracy at a major press conference.

from Seven Days in May (1964)
Creator: John Frankenheimer
Distributor: Warner Brs
Posted by Dr. Johannes Pause
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